Today the nation’s largest specialty retailer of paint and painting supplies, Sherwin-Williams, announced that it would phase out the use of a toxic chemical known as methylene chloride in its paint removal products by the end of this year. The company, which operates more than 4,600 company-owned stores in the U.S., Canada, and Latin America, also confirmed it does not sell and does not plan to sell paint strippers containing another chemical, called N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP).
Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) sent the company a letter today urging them to phase out the sale of these toxic products. Sherwin-Williams’ announcement comes just two weeks after Lowe’s became the first major U.S. retailer to announce a ban on paint strippers containing chemicals that have been found to pose unacceptable health risks, including cancer, harm to the nervous system and childhood development, and even death.
“This is great news for families across the country who have been calling on retailers to ban deadly paint strippers,” said Mike Schade, Mind the Store campaign director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. “We congratulate Sherwin-Williams for taking this important step, which will not only lead to the removal of toxic products but also help encourage the development of safer solutions. We now urge other top retailers like The Home Depot, Menards, and Ace Hardware to join Lowe’s and Sherwin-Williams in banning these dangerous products. What retailer will be next to commit to pulling these toxic products from store shelves? The race is on.”
“EPA is promoting the chemical industry agenda, leaving citizens to protect themselves from dangerous products that don’t belong on any store shelf, anywhere in America. Sherwin-Williams just did the right thing by announcing it will ban these deadly paint strippers. We can’t wait for Scott Pruitt’s chemical-friendly EPA to act; it’s time for other retailers like The Home Depot to protect their customers as well,” said Sujatha Bergen, a policy analyst with NRDC.
“My family is encouraged by Sherwin-Williams’ announcement today. Sadly, we have seen many people harmed and killed by these products, but taking them off the shelves is the first step to seeing that others aren’t exposed to these deadly products,” said Brian Wynne, brother of Drew Wynne who died from methylene chloride exposure from a paint stripper purchased at Lowe’s in 2017.
In 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA proposed a ban on paint removers that contain methylene chloride and NMP. Methylene chloride has been linked to more than 60 deaths nationwide since 1980 and is also linked to lung and liver cancer, neurotoxicity, and reproductive toxicity. In turn, N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP), which can be substituted for methylene chloride in paint removers, impacts fetal development and can cause miscarriage and stillbirth. According to the EPA, more than 60,000 U.S. workers and 2 million consumers are exposed to methylene chloride and NMP annually.
Last month, Lowe’s became the first major U.S. retailer to commit to banning methylene chloride and NMP globally after more than 200,000 consumers nationwide signed petitions urging the company to act. In early May, advocates held a week of action in more than a dozen states demanding that Lowe’s act on methylene chloride and NMP. Last year, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families sent Lowe’s a letter warning the company about the dangers of these chemicals, much like the letter sent to Sherwin-Williams today, and requested that the store stop selling paint strippers containing toxic chemicals, including the product that killed a Lowe’s customer. NRDC also sent Lowe’s a letter, generated more than 40,000 public comments to the company, and produced an Instagram video that was viewed more than three million times.
In January 2017, the EPA proposed banning paint strippers containing these chemicals under the newly strengthened Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), citing the products’ unreasonable risks to human health. Deferring to the wishes of the chemical industry, the agency shelved the proposed ban soon after Scott Pruitt was confirmed as EPA Administrator and the agency has taken no action in 18 months. In May, two days after EPA Administrator Pruitt met with families who have lost loved ones due to methylene chloride exposure in the past 18 months, the EPA announced that it would finalize a methylene chloride rule. However, the agency has revealed few details on its planned regulatory action, offered no timeline, and has taken no action on NMP.
Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families leads a coalition of more than 450 organizations and businesses working to safeguard American families from toxic chemicals. The group’s Mind the Store campaign challenges big retailers to eliminate toxic chemicals and substitute them with safer alternatives. In November 2017, the campaign released its second annual Who’s Minding the Store? report card ranking and evaluating thirty of the nation’s largest retailers on toxic chemicals.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.